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EEOC Informal Discussion Letter

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

EEOC Office of Legal Counsel staff members wrote the following informal discussion letter in response to an inquiry from a member of the public. This letter is intended to provide an informal discussion of the noted issue and does not constitute an official opinion of the Commission.

Title VII: Pre-employment Inquiries

June 12, 2002

Dear :

This is in response to your letter dated May 14, 2002 to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You question the legality of three alleged statements on employment applications concerning termination. All three versions of the statements maintain that an employee may be terminated at any time for any or no reason.

The EEOC enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (Title VII), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. (ADEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (ADA), and the Equal Pay Act of 1963, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d) et seq. (EPA), which prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, and disability. It is illegal for an employer to terminate an employee on any of these bases.

However, in most jurisdictions including Iowa, employment is "at will." In an at-will employment situation, either party may terminate the employment at any time for any reason except discrimination. Grahek v. Voluntary Hospital Cooperative Association of Iowa, Inc., 473 N.W.2d 31, 34 (Iowa Supreme Court, 1991) ("termination of an employment at-will is generally not actionable in the absence of discrimination or public policy violations"). Therefore, the statements on the application forms are appropriate, as long as the employer does not terminate an employee on a discriminatory basis.

Accordingly, by submitting and signing an application form containing this statement you have not and cannot waive your rights under federal EEO laws. An employer may not interfere with the protected right of an employee to file a charge, testify, assist, or participate in any manner in an investigation, hearing, or proceeding under federal EEO laws. For your convenience, we have attached the EEOC's Enforcement Guidance on non-waivable employee rights.

For additional information on the EEOC and the laws that we enforce, please visit our website at You may also visit the U.S. Department of Labor's website at to determine your rights under the laws that they enforce. We hope that this information is helpful to you. Please note, however, that this letter does not constitute an opinion or interpretation of the Commission within the meaning of § 713(b) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-12(b).


Dianna B. Johnston
Assistant Legal Counsel


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